I do love a good story.
And, like him or not, Kyle Busch winning Sunday on the road course at Sonoma is a good story.
When Busch broke his leg and foot in a horrific accident at the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, there was talk that he wouldn’t race in 2015. After surgery the prognosis did not have Busch back in the racecar until Daytona this week. But Busch’s broken bones healed quicker than anticipated and he was back for the All-Star race in May at Charlotte.
And in his fifth points race back, he won. Not bad for a guy who, by all rights, shouldn’t be in a race car.
But I’m still disappointed.
No, this isn’t a knock on Busch. I’m disappointed because he has had a couple of did not finishes (DNFs) in those five races and has essentially no shot of making the Chase and making NASCAR look incredibly dumb by potentially having a guy who missed nearly one-third of the season win the championship. Busch is currently 37th in Sprint Cup points, 243 points behind Greg Biffle, who sits in 20th – the cutoff to make the Chase if you have a win.
You see, NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France, declared that if Busch won a race and was in the top 20 in Cup points, he would be eligible for the Chase. He granted him a medical waiver for the 11 races that he missed. France said Busch’s injury was on them because the part of the infield wall that Busch hit at Daytona did not have a Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier.
I get that, but 11 races!
I understand the point of the medical waiver. Denny Hamlin has the same waiver after missing one race last year in the regular season. He finished third in the final points standings. Kyle Larson will use it this year for the medical issue he had at Martinsville this year. Key to that: one race.
I’m sorry for what Busch went through and am in awe of his resolve to come back in such a short amount of time from those gruesome injuries, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup season is different from any other form of motorsports. It has a long season and despite the machinations that the younger France has put into place to generate more excitement and drama around the top series championship fight, it should recognize the driver who had the best season. That is season for 36 races, not season for 25 races.
I think NASCAR fans did not have too much issue with the way the new elimination Chase played out last year because the guy who had the best season start-to-finish won. Kevin Harvick was consistent throughout the 2014 regular and then reeled off three victories in the 10-race Chase.
I think France knew that Busch’s odds were pretty long when he returned and he was fairly confident that Busch would have a next-to-impossible task getting into the top 20, so it didn’t matter how many race he won. So France’s gesture to grant the waiver was more ceremonial than anything else; a good way to garner some goodwill for the deficiencies that got slammed into at Daytona (the France family owns International Speedway Corporation, the company that owns Daytona).
So while I was pulling for Kyle to hold off his brother Kurt (who is a whole other story of Chase waivers this year), I hate that a couple of bad runs took the heat of Brian France for the whole Kyle situation this year. And while it would be incredibly remarkable if he were able to get into the top 20 in points in 15 races, Kyle Busch still doesn’t deserve to be in the Chase this year.
And I am missing my opportunity to call Brian France out for it.
— Andy Cagle writes a weekly column about auto racing. Follow him on twitter @andy_cagle or email him at email@example.com.